Rejoice, libertarians! After four years of toiling in relative obscurity, you’ve been restored to your natural role: enemies of the state. Democrats run Washington; Republicans are once again the Scroogey deficit-decrying opposition; libertarians are viewed with cutting eyes as radical threats to a capital city under posse-comitatus protection.
The traditional political order is restored. Milton Friedman tracts are dusting themselves off. George Will is re-courting readers. Nature is healing.
Thanks to the fecklessly LARPed Capitol sacking by ursine Trump backers and a few intermingled malcontents, the right is back on the radar of the security state in a bad way. And it’s not just MAGAites dropping the asservation that Democrat-loyal poll workers stole the election in countless private Facebook groups. Nor is it only testosterone-insecure, non-parietal groups who fancy themselves defenders of Western civilization. Libertarians have found themselves bunched into a conspiracy-addled throng under heavy scrutiny.
Former head intelligencer of the CIA, John Brennan, who knows a thing or two about subversion, has lashed together a broad swath of the right and colored it with a Nazi-brown Crayola. Speaking with the deep-state affinitive MSNBC, Brennan listed off his parade of horribles: “religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, Nativists, even libertarians.”
Holy Southern Poverty Law Center, Batman! That’s an awful lot of haters!
Like a good little snoop, Brennan wholeheartedly embraces the Biden Administration’s domestic surveillance of these “insurgency movements.” So now the Lou Reed-lookalike chaps at Reason get lumped in with Miracle Whippies at Stormfront, the homo-haters of Westboro Baptist Church, and all the latchkey Dylann Roofs into an impolitic ménage, a ripe target for teardown culture, demonization, or pesky CNN reporters in their front lawns. How convenient for the new liver-spotted sheriff in town.
Brennan’s misgrouping is no mere bêtise, especially given his former employer’s penchant for mendacity. Most libertarians viewed the absurd, almost farcical scene at the Capitol as not much more than a quant, and sadly fatal, rebel yell. Some participants died. A Capitol police officer succumbed to injuries he received in the melee. And for what? The business of confirming Joe Biden as the duly elected president was not scuttled, just put over for a few hours. The entire fracas amounted to a giant trespassing citation, with a few points of battery. Calling it an insurrection is an insult to the patriotic roughnecks at Lexington.
There was nary a Ron Paul shirt or von Mises tract among the crowd of pretend Visigoths. Libertarians are notoriously bookish, hewing to the advice of theorist Murray Rothbard who held that “the primary task of opponents of modem tyranny is an educational one.” The closest Rules for Radicals equivalent in libertarian literature is a book defending slumlords and usurists.
Brennan’s inclusion of racists and bigots in the treasonous bricolage is also beside the mark. There was no explicit racial element to the Capitol furor. (The Confederate battle flag, which was brandished in congressional halls, is hardly the cut-and-dry symbol of racial supremacy that Brooklyn bloggers like to pretend.) Nor was religious extremism part of the intrusion, with crazed myrmidons of a millinerian cultus trying to immanentize the eschaton on the Capitol grounds.
What Brennan is doing in his sweeping mischaracterizations is reestablishing the political fault lines of the Obama years.
The right is and remains populated by white-loving, black-hating, Bible-thumping yahoos who join forces with bow-tied, tassel-loafered Hayek acolytes and ordnance enthusiasts to shred democracy and glue the pieces back together into an war-waging, anarcho-theocractic hodgepodge complete with chattel slavery, debtor’s prison, non-stop nuclear warhead production, and mandatory scold’s bridles for dissenters. Brennan, like many Swamp boomers, is used to the political dynamic of white, wealthy free-marketeers facing off with minority tall-poppyist egalitarians, with hardly a worry over our capacious foreign-policy complex.
Trump came along and decapitated zombie Reaganism’s hold on the right, like Rick Grimes swinging a machete. His skepticism of military adventurism and uninhibited international trade, along with his uncheery dismissal of political politesse, attracted a new constituency of rural working men and a surprising number of blacks and Hispanics. This doesn’t fit into the old playbook of Republicans being tight-fisted Calhounists acting as Raytheon bagmen. So Brennan is sticking to a retardataire Cartesian plane of political groupings.
Libertarians are used to odd company within their own ranks. But their being lassoed together with repellant agitants like vocal racists and actual insurrectionists doesn’t bode well for their personal privacy. The Biden Administration is making no bones about its desire to turn its terrorist surveillance tools inward, reversing the Panopticon binoculars on domestic threats. Libertarians may find themselves caught up in this dragnet through no fault of their own. That they predicted this exact collateral impact as incidental to massing spying authority is of no comfort.
It’s the Biden years, same as the Obama years. Trump is Nikolai Yezhov; his transformative effect on the right has been airbrushed out in the minds of the Seconal-popping Potomac class. The memory hole remains the preferred narrative weapon of Brennan’s ilk.